17 November 2011

Bolts 98, Powerade 96

Cardona and Mercado
Meralco relied on its defense, game-long brilliance by Gabby Espinas and late heroics by Mark Cardona as it edged Powerade, 98-96, to climb up the ladder in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum on 16 November 2011.

Espinas paced the Bolts with 25 points including a free throw that sealed it while Cardona had 18 points he highlighted with that baby hook he is known for with 12 seconds to go to help seal the deal and snare them their sixth win against four losses, which was good for solo fifth place.

Aside from the clutch offensive efforts by Espinas and Cardona, Meralco also leaned on its no-nonsense defense as it blanked Powerade with more than three minutes remaining to help steal the win.

"We knew it beforehand it was not going to be easy and true enough, we were pushed to the limit and thanks to Mark Cardona, he bailed us out with that clutch shot," said Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio.

"We had anxious moments, they pretty much scored at will in the middle quarters but in the end, it was defense that also bailed us out. They have a lot of chances to pad the lead but the last three minutes we just played tough defense," he added.

Powerade built on a strong second quarter attack with a bigger third quarter explosion, outscoring Meralco again, 36-27, to seize an 84-79 lead going into the final 12 minutes of play.

The Tigers made their move in the second quarter when they turned a 17-23 first quarter deficit to a 42-39 advantage on six-point binge by JV Casio, this year's top rookie pick, including a rare four-point play and back-to-back baskets by Alex Crisano.

But the Bolts regained control with a 13-6 exchange to close the first half with a 52-48 lead in a stretch marred by flagrant foul penalty 1 each by Meralco's Nelbert Omolon and Powerade's Gary David, who ended the half with 15 points.

Meralco overcame a hot shooting quarter by David with a resolute, rocksolid interior defense to seize a 23-17 after the first canto.

The Bolts lorded it over the boards with 18, including seven from Asi Taulava, as against just nine by the Tigers.

Thankfully, David, who shaved his nate bald, exploded for 11 markers early in helping stop the leeding for Powerade, which led by as big as 10 points in the quarter.

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